In an interview with Newsweek Mexico, the Mejía brothers talk about what it meant to produce an album in a foreign country, the pride they feel in taking the cumbia from Mexico to other latitudes and how this artistic renaissance was possible that has taken them to unimaginable scenarios during the last years.
Well they say that, if you are born in the neighborhood, you will carry it forever in your heart, and Los Ángeles Azules is an example of this. With more than 30 years of successful history, the group founded by the Mejía Avante family took its motto “From Iztapalapa to the world” to the southern tip of the continent with its new album of duets recorded in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
In From Buenos Aires to the world, the group includes South American referents, among them, Vicentico and Palito Ortega.
How did the cumbia from the east of Mexico City get to the streets of Buenos Aires? In 2019, Los Ángeles Azules undertook a tour of Argentina with the conviction of recording their new album there.
In August, the representatives of the Mexican cumbia appeared at the Salón Unione e Benevolenza, a venue dating from 1858, located in the city of Buenos Aires and declared a National Historical Heritage.
This concert was immortalized on his new album, From Buenos Aires to the world, produced by Ocesa Seitrack, which was released on August 28 and contains 13 songs, all a duet with mostly South American singers.
Lali, Vicentico, Palito Ortega, Abel Pintos, Ángela Leiva, Juan Ingaramo, el Polaco, Marcela Morelo, Soledad, Pablo Lescano, Américo and the Mexicans Jay de la Cueva and Julieta Venegas are the singers who participate in this production.
The Mejía brothers, Jorge and Alfredo, say that the decision to record this album in Argentina is due to the fact that since 1994 they have made constant tours of the South American country and have always been received with open arms. “All our lives we have played here and people tell us that we are pioneers of cumbia in Argentina. It’s like a tribute to them ”, explains Alfredo.
They say they are proud to have played at the Salón Unione e Benevolenza “because very few groups are allowed to perform at this venue.”
“IZTAPALAPA IS HISTORY, HERE CUMBIA WAS BORN”
For years, Los Angeles Azules have proudly represented and boasted the place where they were born. “From Iztapalapa to the world” is the phrase that is heard in most of his songs and that has given a positive image to a mayor’s office that for years has been stigmatized by problems such as crime and poverty.
The origin of the group dates back to the mid-1970s in Mexico City. The Mejía Avante family lived in a small house located on Los Reyes Street, in the San Lucas neighborhood, a few blocks from the center of Iztapalapa. This place saw the birth and growth of the Mejía brothers.
With the passage of time, they gradually ventured into the musical world until, in the early 1980s, they created their first group to play instrumental cumbia at neighborhood parties and sound events. In 1982 they were contacted by a modest label and recorded their first album.
Although they acquired great popularity in their first years of career, the family did not change their address and only the 1985 earthquake forced them to leave the house on Los Reyes Street. But the Mejía Avantes did not leave Iztapalapa, they moved a few kilometers away, to the La Era neighborhood, where they still live today.
When remembering their beginnings, Alfredo and Jorge Mejía smile and words are not enough to express what Iztapalapa represents in his career.
The first to speak is Jorge, who goes back to pre-Hispanic times to explain the importance of eastern Mexico City in the history of the country. The keyboardist and composer recounts how the Mexica populated the Cerro de la Estrella and how, after the Conquest, the Spanish founded the eight neighborhoods of Iztapalapa.
“That’s why we were the first to celebrate parties and posadas because they brought their customs to this area (…) Iztapalapa is history, Iztapalapa is the center of cumbias, this is where the Los Ángeles Azules cumbia was born, this is our town” He talks proudly.
The brothers attribute their taste for cumbia to the musical influences they had in their first years of life in the San Lucas neighborhood.
“It is a pride to have left the neighborhood, we play cumbia because we bring the flavor of the sounds in our veins, we grew up among sounds like Venezuela and La Changa, all those who came to Iztapalapa, and from there we began to do cumbia,” he says. George.
Los Mejías point out that all these musical roots, added to the sounds they discovered on their first tours in Puebla and Tlaxcala, forged the style that would ultimately make Los Ángeles Azules popular.
“In the end it is a mixture of rhythms and flavor of all the towns where we have played”, says Alfredo, and assures that his love for the place where they were born is so much that they have composed various songs, one of them: “Iztapalapa , I love you ”.
After several years of experimenting with his own cumbia, the musical evolution of Los Ángeles Azules was reflected in the composition of greatest hits from 1990; The highlights are: “Delivery of love”, “My feelings”, “The ribbon of your hair”, “17 years”, “How am I going to forget you”, “Cumbia del accordion” and “Ay, amor”.
Alfredo and Jorge were a fundamental part of these creations, since both, in addition to being composers, play the accordion and the keyboard. In Jorge’s case, he is also the group’s arranger.
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EIGHT YEARS OF BEING AT THE TOP
In 2012, after a few years of being away from the stage, Los Ángeles Azules had the idea of recording an album of duets singing their best hits. The project was accepted by their record company and, months later, the group recorded the album How could I forget you, a production in which singers such as Ximena Sariñana, Lila Downs and Carla Morrison participated.
For the presentation of the album, the Ocesa company invited them to be part of the Live Latino 2013, one of the main festivals of Ibero-American rock.
This presentation would be the entrance ticket to the stages and audiences that catapulted Los Angeles Azules to world fame. Since then, the natives of Iztapalapa add eight uninterrupted years of being at the top and positioning themselves among the best popular music groups.
However, its own members confess that at the beginning of this new era they had some doubts. Although his career was always successful within the tropical genre, they did not know if his music would appeal to other audiences.
Alfredo Mejía says that in 2013 they were surprised by the response they had on Vive Latino. When their attendance at the festival was announced, “all the people started talking that they were going to take us down because that was not an event for Ángeles Azules, but we said: ‘Let’s introduce ourselves’. We got to play and the reception from the people was so great that our record company started planning a new album of duets ”.
After its presentation at Vive, a deluxe edition of the How could I forget you, in which Los Angeles performed their songs with a symphony orchestra and other personalities were added. Jay de la Cueva, Leonardo de Lozanne, Denise Gutiérrez and the band Kinky were the ones that featured the most.
The group repeated the same formula on their next three albums: Cultural friday (2014), From square to square (2015) and This is cumbia (2018). With millions of downloads, streams, and albums sold, it was a fact: Los Angeles Azules were back.
With the fusion of sounds and the collaboration of guest artists from various genres, the doors were opened like never before. From playing in discreet venues and being the sensation in the most popular neighborhoods and neighborhoods, the Mejía brothers began to make international tours and fill the most important venues in Mexico each year, such as the National Auditorium.
When asked about the formula to satisfy both the dancer of the sonideros and the fan who buys a ticket of thousands of pesos to see them in the front row, Jorge Mejía says that it is all because the “cumbia of Los Ángeles Azules is contagious” and it does not distinguish between social strata.
“For us it has been a radical change, but very nice, because now the whole family comes to our concerts and everyone knows the songs, from children to adults. Before it was not like that, they were pure events with older people who went for the pleasure of dancing ”, says Jorge.
And after so much success, what is next for Los Angeles Azules? The Mejía brothers respond that, since they have many projects on the horizon, including the recording of more duets and unpublished songs, we will have cumbia for a while.
Throughout these eight years, great personalities have sung by his side. Some of the most successful are Natalia Lafourcade, Celso Piña (1953-2019), Jay de la Cueva, Ximena Sariñana, Belinda, Yuri, Vicentico, Aleks Syntek, Gloria Trevi, Lila Downs and Miguel Bosé.
As impossible as it may seem, Los Ángeles Azules assure that the list of artists with whom they will share or wish to share the stage is still long and there are also cases in which they did not manage to finalize the duet.
“We would have loved to record with Juan Gabriel, but unfortunately it was no longer possible. There are many artists who want to record with us, but we also await the opinion of the record company, everything must be planned and in due time (…) For now we have all the attitude to continue working, and as my mother says, to give it to go ahead, ”adds Jorge.
THE QUARANTINE OF THE ANGELS
Finally, Los Angeles Azules talk that they were in New York, United States, when they had to interrupt their tour and return to Mexico due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As a family we are respecting the quarantine, we hardly ever left. We know that it is very difficult for many people due to the economic situation, but now we have to follow the rules to get out of this soon and we are all fine ”, says Jorge.
Despite the fact that they had to interrupt their concerts in a forced way, Los Ángeles Azules already offered their first virtual concert at the beginning of August and they are about to perform some more, whose dates can be consulted on their official page or social networks.
“We have other concerts already signed that are under arrest and that will be held next year, as long as the authorities allow us (…) We would like to be playing, but now for the good of all it is better to be at home.”
Meanwhile, they promote From Buenos Aires to the world, which can not only be found on digital platforms, but there is also a 33-rev vinyl record that is available in stores. just like the CD.
In ‘From Buenos Aires to the world’ they do a duet with singers such as Vicentico, Palito Ortega, Ángela Leiva, Américo, Jay de la Cueva and Julieta Venegas. Photo: Ocesa Seitrack
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